FRBC Response to the Coronavirus

Update from Pastor Matt – Wednesday, March 18th:

Dear Church,
For a video version of the contents of this email, click here – https://youtu.be/DF3i8ATnTGU

The Board met on Monday night to discuss our ongoing plans for pastoral care during this national shut-down. We do not know what the next few weeks will bring. While our area does not have many confirmed cases, medical experts estimate that 10x the reported number are already infected, some asymptomatic. Areas like Seattle are already experiencing a crush of hospitalizations and a shortage of supplies. Olivier Favre, an RBNet national pastor in Mulhouse, France, reports that one church there became the epicenter of the outbreak in Mulhouse, whose medical facility is now overflowing. Some experts have suggested that the U.S. shutdown could last for eight weeks or more. Obviously, this has the potential to create some real hardship for a lot of people.

As Christians, our trust is in a sovereign God, who works all things together for the good of his people. He has a purpose in this situation for each of us individually, for our church, and for his glory in the world. He wants us to make “the best use of the time, because the days are evil” (Eph.5:16).

Here are our current public plans and exhortations for our church:

1. Every member household should be receiving a phone call this week, if you haven’t already, from an elder or deacon – for spiritual check-in and sharing of prayer requests. The elders are committed to making these calls every week the shut-down lasts.

2. This Sunday morning, we should have YouTube streaming set-up for both Sunday School and Morning Worship. Pastors Rick and Al will be hosting a live Sunday School “talk show” called “Wisecracks: Proverbs for Families” at 10am. Then morning worship will be streamed at 11am. We will send further instructions and more information as soon as it becomes available.

3. Sunday evening, we will have Prayer Meeting by video conference, using Zoom. An email invitation will be sent out with specific instructions. If you don’t have video capability, you will also be able to call in by phone. For those who have a video device (laptop, tablet, smart phone), setup is very easy. All you have to do is click on the link in the email invitation. You will then be directed to download the software (which is very quick), and then you will be able to access the video meeting. (Similar video conference plans are being discussed for small groups and bible studies.)

4. Please continue your regular contributions to the church. Checks can still be mailed to the church directly. Alternatively, the deacons are setting up online giving through PayPal. A link will be provided on the church website. Please note that an industry standard transaction fee of 1% is deducted for online contributions.

5. The Board is attempting to monitor the financial situation of church members. If needed, we may ask for a special benevolence offering to care for members in need. We will let you know if that offering is needed.

6. Families are encouraged to make good use of this extra family time. There will be a temptation to be passive – to spend a lot of time on entertainment, or to avoid each other and everyone do their own thing. But what difference could the next four to eight weeks make in your family? We encourage you to be purposeful at meals together with family conversation. Discuss the day’s news; read updates from the church. If you haven’t already, start a habit of family worship by reading Scripture, asking questions about the text, singing together, and praying together. Take a daily family walk for exercise. Consider how God could use the next 4-8 weeks to change your family in ways that could be life-transforming.

7. Spend extra time in prayer. Pray that God would be merciful and bring an end to this crisis quickly. Pray that he would use this situation to strengthen his church and to convert the lost. Print out a copy of the church directory and the church prayer requests as they are sent out, and pray through the list.

8. We also encourage you to use your phones and video calls to stay in touch with fellow church members. Be proactive about reaching out to one another to encourage others or to request help.

Please know that your elders are praying for each of you.

In Christ,
Pastor Matt

Further Explanation on Church Cancellation from Pastor Matt – Saturday, March 14th:

Dear Church,


As you have already been told, the elders met this morning and made the decision to cancel public services tomorrow. This decision was made after consultation with experts and other churches. We want to explain our rationale and encourage all church members to take this situation very seriously.

Despite a lot of skepticism, there are very urgent and serious reasons for discontinuing public gatherings and limiting social interactions. One of my (Pastor Matt’s) high school friends is an anesthesiologist and professor at the University of Vanderbilt, named Dr. Raj Gupta. He shared with me several important pieces of information. According to medical experts, the U.S. is potentially only 10 days behind Italy at this point. Italy and Germany are currently in crisis, already having to triage patients and turn some away. The coronavirus has a contagion number (called an “R0” or “R naught” number) of 3-4 – meaning, for every person who has the virus, on average, they will give it to 3-4 other people, who will give it to 3-4 others, and so on. This is an unusually high R0 number. Within 15 steps, the virus can go from 1 case to more than 14 million in only a couple weeks. While most people will recover or have mild symptoms, about 20% of people will get very sick. According to Dr. Gupta, there are only 100,000 ICU beds in the U.S. The urgent concern is overwhelming the medical system, in which case, many people may die for lack of medical care, who otherwise would have recovered. Another friend, Dr. Jeff Boris, who is a cardiologist at Children’s Hospital, has said that testing in the U.S. is extremely behind. If testing had been more widely available earlier, the R0 factor could have been lowered through focused quarantine and contact-tracing. But the expansion has been so fast, that option is no longer possible. That is why the mass shut-down and “social distancing” is being put into effect by our governing authorities. The goal is to slow down the expansion rate so that the medical community can catch up and then transmission will begin to dissipate.

As Christians, we have a responsibility to honor God by showing love to our neighbors. The temptation is to respond with either fear or careless pride. We must guard against both by trusting and following Christ in loving others more than ourselves. We should not be cavalier or dismissive in responding to the warnings, nor should we panic. Instead, we want to shepherd each other to take this situation seriously, honor what is being requested by the governing authorities, protect the vulnerable, and be a good witness and example to those around us.

As you know the government has mandated all schools to shut down for the next few weeks. Non-essential retail stores (gyms, malls, theaters) are encouraged to close. While the government is not specifically mandating churches, they are discouraging all major gatherings of people. Current recommendations from health officials is for social distancing in public places of up to 6 feet.

As our elders have considered these things, we want to be working from ahead and not from behind. We don’t want to hold services and later regret doing so. We’ve already heard from some church members who have a cough or cold symptoms, who are worried about their responsibility to others. It’s also possible for people to be carriers who have no symptoms at all. If only one person turned out to be positive for the virus, we would be responsible for exposing the whole church and compromising the faithful efforts of our government and health officials.

Because of this, our elders have concluded that we support the goals and efforts of our government to address this pandemic. Therefore, we are taking the following steps:

  • We are canceling all public services and programs for the next two weeks (and will reconsider after two weeks). This includes Tuesday night activities and Small Groups.
  • We are encouraging church members to support these same goals and efforts by practicing social distancing, as much as you are able. Here is an article with some ‘suggestions’ – https://medium.com/@ariadnelabs/social-distancing-this-is-not-a-snow-day-ac21d7fa78b4
  • We will not have streaming of services available tomorrow, but hope to have something set up by next week. Instead, I encourage you to watch the streamed service at one of our sister churches, Arbor Church in Dayton, Ohio. Their service will be at 10:30am and can be streamed here – https://youtu.be/sm1NPa8gQis
  • All church members will be receiving a call from their assigned elder, for a spiritual check-in. The elders will be taking prayer requests and sharing them (with permission) with the rest of the membership.

In closing, consider Martin Luther’s pastoral advice during the Bubonic Plague in 1527:

“I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine and take it. I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance inflict and pollute others and so cause their death as a result of my negligence. If God should wish to take me, he will surely find me and I have done what he has expected of me and so I am not responsible for either my own death or the death of others. If my neighbor needs me however I shall not avoid place or person but will go freely as stated above. See this is such a God-fearing faith because it is neither brash nor foolhardy and does not tempt God.” 
—Martin Luther, Works v. 43, p. 132. Letter “Whether one may flee from a Deadly Plague” written to Rev. Dr. John Hess.

Update from the Elders – Saturday, March 14th:

The Elders just met and reconsidered their previous decision. There will be no church service tomorrow. Another email with an explanation will be sent later today.

Update from the Elders – Friday, March 13th:

Dear Church,
The last two days have been interesting, haven’t they? Regretfully, we wanted to let you know that we are postponing the Alford’s visit for this coming week. Our goal was to have time for our church to fellowship with them and for them to get a feel for our area and community. Given the rapidly changing situation, we feel that goal was already being compromised. There is also the very real possibility that churches will soon be asked to cancel public services. God-willing, we will reschedule the Alford’s visit when this current crisis has passed.

As of Friday morning, we will be holding Sunday School and Worship as usual this Sunday. However, we are canceling the Fellowship Meal. We will keep you updated on future plans.

Delaware County has set up a website with all the current updates for our region – https://www.delcopa.gov/ich/resources/coronavirus.html

We will still be following the guidelines (with some additions) sent to you yesterday:

  • We are asking all attendees to be extra vigilant in monitoring yourself and family members for signs of illness. If you or family members are experiencing symptoms, please do not attend church services or programs.
  • If you have pre-existing medical conditions that would put you at risk, please seek medical consultation and avoid physical contact with others. It would be best to stay home.
  • The church will be enacting additional cleaning procedures to disinfect common surfaces during and after all services and programs.
  • We will no longer be passing the offering plate during the service. Alternative methods will be enacted to receive the offering.
  • We are encouraging all attendees to be thoughtful and careful about physical contact in church settings.
  • We are discouraging the use of the water fountains. Cups will be available.

Also, remember the words of James 4:8, “Cleanse your hands, you sinners!”

In Christ,
The Elders

Email from the Board – Thursday, March 12th:

Dear FRBC members and regular attenders,

As you are aware, our community is facing a global pandemic with the outbreak of the coronavirus. While most people will not be seriously affected, the Surgeon General has called the virus 10x more deadly than the seasonal flu, and the elderly and those with health problems are extremely vulnerable. The biggest concern is for the potential stress on our medical system, if the virus spreads too quickly, and the medical community is overwhelmed, as has happened in places like Wuhan and now in Italy.

For information on the virus, Miguel Nunez, a Reformed Baptist pastor from the Dominican Republic and former doctor, has written a great summary on the Gospel Coalition website – https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/what-we-know-coronavirus/

As Christians, we serve a Sovereign God, who has given us in Christ an inheritance that can never perish, spoil, or fade. In times of uncertainty, he calls us to pray, to seek his mercy, and ultimately to trust him. He also calls us to be responsible, to obey the governing authorities, and to love our neighbors.

As a church, we need to take steps to faithfully and responsibly respond to this global situation. For that reason, we will be enacting the following measures:

  • We are asking all attendees to be extra vigilant in monitoring yourself and family members for signs of illness. If you are experiencing symptoms, please do not attend church services or programs.
  • If you have pre-existing medical conditions that would put you at risk, please seek medical consultation and avoid physical contact with others. It may be best to stay home.
  • The church will be enacting additional cleaning procedures to disinfect common surfaces during and after all services and programs.
  • For the next few weeks, we will no longer be passing the offering plate during services. Alternative methods will be enacted to receive the offering.
  • We are encouraging all attendees to be thoughtful and careful about physical contact in church settings.
  • We will still have a Fellowship Meal this Sunday. However, we will have servers distributing food, rather than a smorgasbord.

The Board will continue to monitor the situation. If dangerous weather is coming, it has sometimes been necessary to cancel services and seek shelter until the storm is past or the roads are clear. In this situation, especially if local and national government officials direct, we may need to limit or cancel services. In such a case, we will hope to stream some type of Sunday service over the internet. Please monitor your email and the church website for further updates.

In Christ,
The FRBC Board